Thursday, April 22, 2010


This spring, I planted a garden for the first time in a dozen years.  I gardened with my Mom as a child and teenager, but since leaving home at 18, I haven't had a spot of earth to call my own.  I did attempt some container gardening a few times, with mixed success.  But this spring, I'm living in my parents' home again, and they have enough of a yard that I can plant a real garden.  The soil here is terrible (they call it "gumbo" and it's a heavy clay, very sticky when wet, and rock-hard when dry) but I added some peat moss, and so far things are growing well.

This morning, I investigated my little garden and discovered that my tomatoes are officially in bloom:
When I was cropping this photo, I noticed the little green bug, just above the flower.  Can you see him?  He's the same color as the leaf.  What kind of bug is he?  A good bug or a bad bug?
EDIT: it's a bad guy!  See the comments section.

My tomatoes are looking happy.  Which makes me happy.  I need to get some cages around these things pretty soon. 

For comparison, here they are a couple of days after planting, on April 2nd.  I got them in the ground kind of late; hopefully I'll get a good crop of tomatoes before it gets too hot.

And my basil is sprouting!  I left the seed packet out in the rain and the seeds got moldy, so I wasn't sure if they would sprout.  But it looks like almost all have sprouted (I planted the basil in pots).  By the way, I ordered my seeds from this company: and I would highly recommend them.  They sell only heirloom seeds, no hybrids or genetically modified stuff.  Their customer service was great and shipping was super fast.

I also have a bed of yellow bell peppers and jalapenos, which are looking great except for one plant which may or may not make it.  I still need to plant my okra and purple-hulled cowpeas.  It's getting pretty late to be planting things, but supposedly okra and cowpeas love the heat, so perhaps they will be okay.

On another "green" note, happy Earth Day. :)  I'm not sure how I feel about Earth Day.  On the one hand, I think it's wise to take a moment to thank the Lord for the resources He has blessed us with, and to think about how we can use those resources most wisely, and not be wasteful.

On the other hand, I know that a lot of people associate Earth Day with the more radical environmentalists--the sort who talk about Gaia and Mother Nature, and view humans as parasites on the earth.  And the people in Washington making a big hoopla about Earth Day, and advocating for environmental issues on a regular basis, are often the same people advocating for abortion rights and gay rights. 

But I worry that many Christians reject the "green" movement entirely because of those associated with it; when really, environmental issues are something that we ought to be concerned with for Biblical reasons.  Here's an excerpt of a statement by the Southern Baptist Convention about environmental issues.  Obligatory disclaimer: I don't support or agree with everything the SBC says or does.  I just thought the points listed below were well said.
  • We must care about environmental and climate issues because of our love for God...through whom and for whom the creation was made. This is not our world, it is God’s. Therefore, any damage we do to this world is an offense against God Himself (Gen. 1; Ps. 24; Col. 1:16).
  • We must care about environmental issues because of our commitment to God’s Holy and inerrant Word...Within these Scriptures we are reminded that when God made mankind, He commissioned us to exercise stewardship over the earth and its creatures (Gen. 1:26-28). Therefore, our motivation for facing failures to exercise proper stewardship is not primarily political, social or economic—it is primarily biblical.
  • We must care about environmental and climate issues because we are called to love our neighbors, to do unto others as we would have them do unto us and to protect and care for the “least of these” (Mt. 22:34-40; Mt. 7:12; Mt. 25:31-46). The consequences of these problems will most likely hit the poor the hardest, in part because those areas likely to be significantly affected are in the world’s poorest regions. Poor nations and individuals have fewer resources available to cope with major challenges and threats. Therefore, “we should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy … [and] the helpless”... through proper stewardship.
If you visit the site, skip down to section 3, though I thought section 2, about the science behind climate change, was also pretty good. 
    Another thing that we as Christians ought to have in common with the "environmentalist" movement is the rejection of materialism and consumerism--the "buy more stuff" mentality that seems so prevalent in our culture.  Matthew 6:24-34

    Anyway, I might be in the minority here with my wacky "green" ideas, but it's my blog, not yours, and y'all think I'm nuts anyway, right?

    Seems like I haven't been getting as many blog comments lately, though the conversation about women's dress continues behind the scenes.  Please feel free to comment even if--or dare I say, especially if--you disagree with me. :)


    1. I'm soooo disappointed I didn't plant anything this year. I'm sure our landlord would have let us plant a garden in their field behind us, and if anything else I could have done peppers and tomatoes in buckets on our tiny porch. But I kind of forgot about the whole thing until recently, and I'm pretty sure it's too late now. (Plus I have no idea what sort of soil is here, and what I might have to do to it before I could plant.)

      As far as being green goes -- I like to think I'm fairly green, though I don't make a conscious effort to be kind to the environment. I think it's unfortunate being green has to be lumped with being "way out there", even though I myself am guilty of doing the same thing.
      I do try to use as little electricity as possible, but I must admit that's only pretty much just so my energy bill isn't so high! I also don't have a lot of waste, so it hardly seems worth the effort to recycle. I'm pretty sure we leave a much smaller carbon print than the average American, since we have so little processed food.

      I completely agree with you about materialism and consumerism.

    2. Hey, friends on Facebook pointed out that the bug is an aphid; and a Google images search revealed that it's actually an aphid giving birth! Like this one:

    3. Mercy, I saw what you's not too late to grow something. If you start soon you can still grow green beans (try to use "Contender" or whatever's fastest). They're simple!

      Tomatoes, too, if you get already-started plants (that are big and stout and green). Best bet is "patio" tomatoes...handle 'em by the leaves and not the trunk. They should be virus and mildew resistant, they probably already are if they're being sold around here.

      Also, a 45 day yellow squash (straight-neck) can and will keep growing even into the first part of summer if kept watered, even more if shaded half or more of the day in some way. They're really simple! (Your husband should know most of these things as he enjoyed gardening and milking goats in the hot sun as a kid. Maybe his head got too scorched.)

      Then, all through the summer you can grow black-eyed peas (as Sharon mentioned) and okra. The problem will be you, tending them in the hot sun - though they don't need much. It's kind of fun to watch the deep dark green peas (from Africa) and the tropical okra just 'laugh' at the burning sun as they thrive therein.

      The peas will thrive in drought, weeds, and bad soil (they like the black clay dirt here that Sharon mentioned) because they produce their own nitrogen, which is lacking in our 'gumbo' clay. The clay though is full of minerals, and Froberg's in Alvin grows tons of stuff in it...unfortunately w/ chemicals.

      You'll only be able to handle 3 at the most okra plants (fry 'em, ask Mark!) where you are, and not too many peas either. Main thing is aphid attack when it gets hot (Sharon's bug she posted). Find some effective natural aphid pesticide (probably anywhere nowadays) unless you want to go to the trouble of putting some light garden netting over them, some people do. (Garden's Alive on the web is a truly good company for everything.)

      Lastly (sorry Sharon, I just like to see people garden...Carl's gardening), don't fuss w/ the existing soil for now. That's what frustrates people soooo much, they work so hard, mess w/ the soil, then plant a whole acre. Then everything dies or gets sick.

      Just plant a little and give them all your attention. Even if it's just two plants, or even one, it's still so rewarding when they turn out perfect and thrive. Half of something is better than all of nothing.

      Actually, this is lastly...there IS such a thing as perfect dirt! And that's the key. Mix your own or buy it, use raised beds (even grow right out of the bag), do the right (natural) fertilizer the right way, keep the plants moist and comfortable temp. wise, and you got it!

      I try to think of plants like humans, I mean, they just want to be comfortable, all the way 'round, like us. Google "Square Foot Gardening," my favorite garden method, and they should tell you about the dirt and the fertilizer (plant food), and the bugs, or buy the book. And again, Garden's Alive is great.

      Sharon I'm very sorry for taking up space, I just wanted to give some encouragement to whoever down here in hot Texas, I mean about gardening. Gonna be one hot summer coming, no particular reason!

    4. Thanks for the tips, Uncle Ernie! I hadn't realized you were into gardening--Jesh says you and Uncle Lyle used to grow quite a bit.

      I checked on my tomatoes this morning and that same aphid was still there, surrounded by half a dozen babies. I don't have that many aphids on my tomatoes overall, actually, but there were tons on my jalapeno plants! So I knocked them all off by squirting the plants with water from a spray bottle. Supposedly the aphids are too stupid to find their way back to the plant after you knock them off.

      I'm trying to avoid pesticides if at all possible--I read this book about the collapse of the honeybee, scary stuff--so if the aphids get too bad, maybe I will order some ladybugs (or ladybirds, for my UK readers). :)

    5. Yeah, some plants are pollinated exclusively by bees, some people have to actually hand pollinate if they want any fruit. I've been hearing about the bee problem for a while, haven't studied it.

      Garden's Alive has the best "bio-insecticides" and stuff for viruses and fungus etc. Supposedly they don't sell anything harmful. Pretty soon, like now, according to your photos, you'll have to watch for tomato hornworms, they'll eat your tomato plants' leaves up (and no leaves means no gathering of sunlight by the plant).

      That and viruses/fungus/mildew problems due to our humidity was our main problems with tomatoes. The worms - they get big and long and fat and have a mean-looking harmless stinger type horn that looks like a unicorn - hide sometimes under the leaves and blend in perfectly. You can use something called BT or just daily look for them and pick them off.

      The horde of aphids I mentioned, when it gets hot...I meant those mean-looking stink-bug looking things...they stick their needle beak in the fruit itself and suck on it, leaving scars and bumps...don't like them critters. My kids are familiar w/ them.

      I can just hear the non-gardeners sighing at this info...but, the following might drum up some comments...what about where Sharon in her Earth Day blog says that everybody THINKS she's nuts...any comments?

      AND, contrary to what the Sierra Club and Backpacker magazine would have you think, (wish they were right), since the fall of man this earth does lash out at us all the time, from bugs on the fruit to erupting volcanoes. (But we also do our share of offense to the earth admittedly.)

    6. I just wanted to thank you, Dad-in-law, for all your help. I was so happy to read your post I was ready to go out the following Monday and buy some plants, but I ended up being so ill that I was unable to. At this point I'm afraid I won't be doing a garden at all, but I really appreciate your post!

    7. Hi, Sharon--
      It's good to "visit" with you on your blog! :)
      In regards to the environmental movement, I have mixed thoughts. On one hand, I agree with what the Bible says about being good stewards, both of the earth and our resources, and of taking dominion for the good of mankind and God's glory, but, unfortunately, what God has made good, man has corrupted and twisted with what we currently associate with the environmental movement in the world today. That's not to say we shouldn't continue to be good stewards and frugal and resourceful, but I do think we should be careful not to necessarily see car emissions or the use of oil or the use of any natural resource as a bad thing, as long as we're not going to excess (which would be a biblical principle as well). When I think of main spokespeople for the environmental movement today, many times they have junk science behind studies done actually to promote a political agenda instead of preserving God's earth or they falsify information for their political purposes, and I do have a problem with that. If they're using environmentalism to control the people, to get us to do whatever their agenda is, that is wrong. I think of how Jesus' disciples were scolded by the Pharisees for not following one of their little rules--eating with "washen hands," and Jesus said that it's not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out. Sometimes we become so focused on externals that we don't spend near the time we should on just enjoying our Savior, focusing on the Gospel, sharing Him with others, saying "no" to our sin, etc. Everything else is fluff. This earth, and everything in it, is perishing and will one day be burned up. God and people's souls are the main thing.
      Warmly in His Love,
      Rachel C.

    8. Hey, thank-you Mercy. Just remember, there's no use in gardening if it's gonna'll get discouraged and the experience might jade you for life. And there's few things so easy and so rewarding and that will show you the Lord.

      It's a miracle watching a plant grow and fruit forming. And, you can't eat healthier...the fruit is still 'alive' when you eat it (if you don't destroy it by cooking it, like we all do). That's why I'm starting to buy Romaine (or any kind of lettuce still attached to the stalk because it is still getting nourishment from it - except the notorious no-vitamin and non-green Iceberg - has to have some color).

      Things stay fresher if they're attached to the stalk or vine. (Like "I am the vine, you are the branches.") Believers stay fresh...they're kept from languishing, becoming unusable, stinking, and finally rotting and thrown out. Yikes.

      Can't lose w/ gardening. Exercise and the therapy of pulling weeds...and Vitamin D sunshine...and being w/ your kids. Wow. Farming is a business, gardening is LUV. (I sound like a girl.) OK, a dumb guy. Sounds like a good bumper sticker though too. I'd follow Square Foot Gardening, and get their book if you can.


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